The Writing Wolf Blog

Beautiful Trees – The Rowan Tree

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The European rowan (S. aucuparia) has a long tradition in European mythology and folklore. It was thought to be a magical tree and protection against malevolent beings.

The name “rowan” is derived from the Old Norse name for the tree, raun. Linguists believe that the Norse name is ultimately derived from a proto-Germanic word *raudnian meaning “getting red” and which referred to the red foliage and red berries in the autumn. Rowan is one of the most familiar wild trees in the British Isles, and has acquired numerous English folk names, for example, Mountain ash, Quickbane, Whispering tree, Witch wood and Witchbane,   Many of these can be easily linked to the mythology and folklore surrounding the tree. In Gaelic, it is caoran, or Rudha-an (red one, pronounced quite similarly to English “rowan”).

The density of the rowan wood makes it very usable for walking sticks and magician’s staves. This is why druid staffs are said, for example, traditionally, to have  been made out of rowan wood, and its branches were often used in dowsing rods and magic wands.  Rowan was carried on vessels to avoid storms, kept in houses to guard against lightning, and even planted on graves to keep the deceased from haunting. It was also used to protect one from witches.

Often birds’ droppings contain rowan seeds, and if such droppings land in a fork or hole where old leaves have accumulated on a larger tree, such as an oak or a maple, they may result in a rowan growing as an epiphyte on the larger tree. Such a rowan is called a “flying rowan” and was thought of as especially potent against witches and their magic, and as a counter-charm.

In Finland and Sweden, the number of berries on the trees was used as a predictor of the snow cover during winter.

This tree carries a heavy load of folklore but above all it is a truly beautiful tree.

Beautiful Legends – White Buffalo Woman

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For the Lakota (Sioux) nation a sacred woman of supernatural origin  is treated as a prophet or a messiah and is central to their religion. Oral traditions relate how she brought the extended Lakota nation of the Teton Sioux their seven sacred ceremonies.

The Creator sent the sacred White Buffalo Calf Woman to teach the People how to pray with the Pipe. With that Pipe, seven sacred ceremonies were given for the people to abide in order to ensure a future with harmony, peace, and balance.

The story goes back two thousand years.  She appeared to two warriors at that time. These two warriors were out hunting buffalo, hunting for food in the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota, and they saw a big body coming toward them. And they saw that it was a white buffalo calf. As it came closer to them, it turned into a beautiful young Indian girl.

That time one of the warriors had bad thoughts about her so the young girl told him to step forward. And when he did step forward, a black cloud came over his body, and when the black cloud disappeared, the warrior who had bad thoughts was left with no flesh or blood on his bones. The other warrior kneeled and began to pray.

And when he prayed, the white buffalo calf who was now an Indian girl told him to go back to his people and warn them that in four days she was going to bring a sacred bundle.

So the warrior did as he was told. He went back to his people and he gathered all the elders and all the leaders and all the people in a circle and told them what she had instructed him to do. And sure enough, just as she said she would, on the fourth day she came.

They say a cloud came down from the sky, and off of the cloud stepped the white buffalo calf. As it rolled onto the earth, the calf stood up and became this beautiful young woman who was carrying the sacred bundle in her hand.

As she entered into the circle of the nation, she sang a sacred song and took the sacred bundle to the people who were there. She spent four days among the people and taught them about the sacred bundle, the meaning of it.

She taught them seven sacred ceremonies.

One of them was the sweat lodge, or the purification ceremony. One of them was the naming ceremony, child naming. The third was the healing ceremony. The fourth one was the making of relatives or the adoption ceremony. The fifth one was the marriage ceremony. The sixth was the vision quest. And the seventh was the sundance ceremony, the people’s ceremony for all of the nation.

She brought seven sacred ceremonies and taught the people the songs and the traditional ways. And she instructed the people that as long as they performed these ceremonies they would always remain caretakers and guardians of sacred land. She told them that as long as they took care of it and respected it that their people would never die and would always live.

When she was done teaching the people, she left the way she came. She went out of the circle, and as she was leaving she turned and told the people that she would return one day for the sacred bundle. And she left the sacred bundle, which they have to this very day.

From: White Buffalo Teachings by Chief Arvol Looking Horse

Beautiful Places – Zen Garden of Kyoto

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Zen Garden of Kyoto

Zen rock gardens, or karesansui (translated as “dry-mountain-water”), originated in medieval Japan and are renowned for their simplicity and serenity. The most famous of these can be found in Kyoto at the 15th-century Ryoan-ji, the Temple of the Peaceful Dragon. “While there are other similar gardens of great beauty,” says James Ulak, curator of Japanese art at Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, “Ryoan-ji remains the ur-site of the type—powerful, abstract, Zen Buddhist landscapes designed to invoke deep meditation.”

Measuring 98 by 32 feet, the Ryoan-ji garden is about the size of a tennis court and is composed solely of 15 large and small rocks, some encircled by moss, grouped in five clusters on a bed of carefully raked white sand. From a distance, the rocks resemble islands, the sand a tranquil sea.

In 2002, a research team at Kyoto University claimed to have cracked the Zen code. Relying on computer models, they found that the garden’s rocks—when viewed from the proper angle—subconsciously evoke the tranquil outline of a branching tree. Over the centuries, however, visitors have discerned images as diverse as a tigress escorting her cubs across water and the Chinese character for “heart” or “mind.” Since the anonymous designer left no explanation, the garden’s exact meaning remains a mystery, which no doubt contributes to its enduring allure.

What will you see?

Beautiful Paintings – The White Water Lilies by Claude Monet

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In 1893 Monet had bought a strip of marshland across the road from his house and flower garden, through which flowed a tributary of the River Epte. By diverting this stream, he began to construct a waterlily garden. Soon weeping willows, iris, and bamboo grew around a free-form pool, clusters of lily pads and blossoms floated on the quiet water, and a Japanese bridge closed the composition at one end. By 1900 this unique product of Monet’s imagination (for his Impressionism had become more subjective) was in itself a major work of environmental art—an exotic lotusland within which he was to meditate and paint for almost 30 years. The first canvases he created depicting lilies, water, and the Japanese bridge were only about one square yard, but their unprecedented opeads and blossoms floating on the quiet water, and the Japanese bridge closing the composition at one end,  have an almost hypnotic effect.  This picture and the others depicting his garden go on to inspire the imagination of artists and gardeners as well as those of us who just enjoy the fruit of their labours

The picture is in Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow






Beautiful Trees – the English Oak

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Quercus robur –  the English oak – is synonymous with strength, size and longevity. Despite its apparently random method of reproduction, oaks can grow to well over 30m and can live in excess of 1,000 years.

This deciduous broadleaf tree grows in Europe, North Africa, Asia Minor and the Caucasus. Of the species of tree native to Britain, the English or pedunculate oak is probably the most well-known and best-loved. This king of the forest can live for more than a millennium according to some sources, and grow up to 40m (125ft). Mature specimens are usually home to many species of wildlife.  Quercus robur is named for its robust or sturdy nature and since iron tools were first made, people have been cutting down this mighty tree for its strong and durable timber. It can take as long as 150 years before an oak is ready to be used for construction purposes but it is well worth the wait.

Until the middle of the 19th century when iron became the material of choice for building ships, thousands upon thousands of oaks were felled every year. It was estimated that it took 2,000 trees to make a single ship, and eventually laws were passed to protect the oak.

For such a huge, long-living and widespread tree, the oak is surprisingly bad at reproducing naturally. Firstly, it can take a full 50 years before the tree has its first crop of acorns, the seed of the oak. Secondly, the overwhelming majority of the tens of thousands of acorns it drops are eaten by animals or simply rot. And so it is left to forgetful squirrels or jays to bury them for future consumption for the lifecycle of this giant of the countryside to continue.

Beautiful Creatures – the Caracal

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The caracal (Caracal caracal) is a fiercely territorial medium-sized cat ranging over the Middle East and Africa. The word caracal comes from the Turkish word “karakulak”, meaning “black ear”. Although it has traditionally had the alternative names Persian Lynx and African Lynx, the caracal is a form of African Lynx or “The African Golden Cat” . Its ears, which it uses to locate prey are controlled by 20 different muscles. The caracal is classified as a small cat, yet is amongst the heaviest of all small cats, as well as the quickest, being nearly as fast as the serval.  North African populations are disappearing, but caracals are still abundant in other African regions. Their range limits are the Saharan desert and the equatorial forest belt of Western and Central Africa. In South Africa and Namibia, C. caracal is so numerous that it is exterminated as a nuisance animal. Asiatic populations are less dense than those of Africa and Asiatic populations are of greater concern  

Beautiful Places – Guernsey

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A heady mix of stunning scenery and contemporary living make Guernsey an ideal place to relax. Inspiring walks along the cliff paths, rambles through the rural interior can be combined with lazy days on the island’s beautiful beaches. St Peter Port, the island’s capital, is a bustling harbor town with a tapestry of architectural styles that tell the story of the region’s changing fortunes. Here bistros, restaurants and boutiques jostle, while the harbor ferries make travel to the other Channel Islands (Jersey, Alderney, Sark etc) simple. Although Guernsey is geographically much closer to France than the UK, it is loyal to the British crown. This loyalty, can be traced back to Norman times when the Channel Islands first became part of the English realm, and forms the basis of the island’s constitution.

Beautiful Phenomenon – The Jet Stream

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Most of us think rarely about the jet stream and the impact it has on our lives but it has a huge influence on weather and climate and certainly on air travel. As the picture shows, from space it looks quite beautiful.   Here the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream can be seen crossing Cape Breton Island in the Maritime Provinces of Eastern Canada. The Jet Stream is a narrow zone of high-speed winds typically found at altitudes of 4 to 8 miles (8-12 km) above the earth. They result from temperature contrasts between polar and tropical regions. The strongest Jet Stream winds are found in the winter when the contrast between polar and tropical regions is the greatest. Wind speeds can reach 90 to over 180 miles per hour (145 to over 290 km/h) from west to east. Jet Streams are found between latitudes 20? to near 55? north and south. During the winter months over the United States and southern Canada, the path taken by the Jet Stream can have a large influence on the weather conditions of this region. (Courtesy NASA)

Beautiful Disappering World – Sea Ice

Article by Michon Scott design by Robert Simmon

April 20, 2009

This Article is from the NASA Earth Observatory Website to which there is a link below

Sea ice is frozen seawater that floats on the ocean surface. It forms in both the Arctic and the Antarctic in each hemisphere’s winter, and it retreats, but does not completely disappear, in the summer.

Sea ice plays an important role in the climate and ecosystems of the Arctic and Antarctic. (Photograph ©2008 fruchtzwerg’s world.)

The Importance of Sea Ice

Sea ice has a profound influence on the polar physical environment, including ocean circulation, weather, and regional climate. As ice crystals form, they expel salt, which increases the salinity of the underlying ocean waters. This cold, salty water is dense, and it can sink deep to the ocean floor, where it flows back toward the equator. The sea ice layer also restricts wind and wave action near coastlines, lessening coastal erosion and protecting ice shelves. And sea ice creates an insulating cap across the ocean surface, which reduces evaporation and prevents heat loss to the atmosphere from the ocean surface. As a result, ice-covered areas are colder and drier than they would be without ice.

Sea ice also has a fundamental role in polar ecosystems. When sea ice melts in the summer, it releases nutrients into the water, which stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, which are the base of the marine food web. As the ice melts, it exposes ocean water to sunlight, spurring photosynthesis in phytoplankton.When ice freezes, the underlying water gets saltier and sinks, mixing the water column and bringing nutrients to the surface. The ice itself is habitat for animals such as seals, Arctic foxes, polar bears, and penguins.

Life thrives along the margins of sea ice. Melting and freezing enhance circulation, bringing nutrients to the surface. The nutrients nourish phytoplankton, which are the base of the ocean food web. All marine animals, including the magnificent killer whale, ultimately depend on phytoplankton. (Photograph courtesy Donald LeRoi, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NSF Antarctic Photo Library.)

Sea ice’s influence on the Earth is not just regional; it’s global. The white surface of sea ice reflects far more sunlight back to space than ocean water does. (In scientific terms, ice has a high albedo.) Once sea ice begins to melt, a self-reinforcing cycle often begins. As more ice melts and exposes more dark water, the water absorbs more sunlight. The sun-warmed water then melts more ice. Over several years, this positive feedback cycle (the “ice-albedo feedback”) can influence global climate.

Sea ice plays many important roles in the Earth system, but influencing sea level is not one of them. Because it is already floating on the ocean surface, sea ice is already displacing its own weight. Melting sea ice won’t raise ocean level any more than melting ice cubes will cause a glass of iced tea to overflow.

The Sea Ice Life Cycle

When seawater begins to freeze, it forms tiny crystals just millimeters wide, called frazil. How the crystals coalesce into larger masses of ice depends on whether the seas are calm or rough. In calm seas, the crystals form thin sheets of ice, nilas, so smooth they have an oily or greasy appearance. These wafer-thin sheets of ice slide over each other forming rafts of thicker ice. In rough seas, ice crystals converge into slushy pancakes. These pancakes can slide over each other to form smooth rafts, or they can collide into each other, creating ridges on the surface and keels on the bottom.

(At left) Sea ice begins as thin sheets of smooth nilas in calm water (top) or disks of pancake ice in choppy water (2nd from top). Individual pieces pile up on top of one another to form rafts and eventually solidify (3rd from top). Over time, large sheets of ice collide, forming thick pressure ridges along the margins (bottom). (Nilas, pancake, and ice raft photographs courtesy Don Perovich, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. Pressure ridge photograph courtesy Ted Scambos, National Snow and Ice Data Center.)

Some sea ice is fast ice that holds fast to a coastline or the sea floor, and some sea ice is pack ice that drifts with winds and currents. Because pack ice is dynamic, pieces of ice can collide and form much thicker ice. Leads—narrow, linear openings in the ice ranging in size from meters to kilometers—continually form and disappear.

Larger and more persistent openings, polynyas, are sustained by upwelling currents of warm water or steady winds that blow the sea ice away from a spot as quickly as it forms. Polynyas often occur along coastlines where offshore winds maintain their presence.

Fast ice is anchored to the shore or the sea bottom, while pack ice floats freely. As it drifts, leads continually open and close between ice floes. Persistent openings, polynyas, are maintained by strong winds or ocean currents. (NASA satellite image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team .)

As the water and air temperatures rise each summer, some sea ice melts. Because of differences in geography and climate, it’s normal for Antarctic sea ice to melt more completely in the summer than Arctic sea ice. Ice that escapes summer melting may last for years, often growing to a thickness of 2 to 4 meters (roughly 6.5 to 13 feet) or more in the Arctic.

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For ice to thicken, the ocean must lose heat to the atmosphere. But the ice insulates the ocean like a blanket. Eventually, the ice gets so thick that no more heat can escape. Once the ice reaches this thickness—3 to 4 meters (10 to 13 feet)—further thickening isn’t possible except through collisions and ridge-building.

Ice that survives the summer melt season is called multi-year ice. Multi-year ice increasingly loses salt and hardens each year it survives the summer melt. In contrast to multi-year ice, first-year ice—ice that has grown just since the previous summer—is thinner, saltier, and more prone to melt in the subsequent summer.

Sea Ice : Feature Articles.

Beautiful Sea Creatures – The Feather Star

Feather Star (Antedon bifida)

This feather star has ten thin pinnate arms with branches which make it look feather-like. Around the base there are about 25 short cirri and these curl underneath to anchor the animal to the ground. The arms are pink or red with white speckles. The arms are around 5 cm in length.

This is a very unusual species and is one of the last remnants of an ancient and largely extinct group of marine Echinoderms – the crinoids. The feathery arms produce a large surface and by being held upwards they collect plankton and detritus from the water. Cilia on the surface beat to drive the material down to the mouth to be consumed. They have separate sexes with the gonads being located on the arms.

Feather-stars are found in a variety of habitats, mainly sheltered, and attached to rocks and algae. Sometimes they are found in very large numbers (possibly up to 1000 per metre squared). They are not, however, commonly met and the distribution is limited somewhat to the southern Atlantic coastline of Europe.

Feather Star (Antedon bifida)

This item is taken from the Seashore Website which is full of useful and fascinating information